With less than two weeks to go to parliamentary elections, the institutions overseeing the election process on Monday raised concerns over the number of polling stations they say will be closed on Election Day.
One watchdog institution in northern Balkh province said around 40 polling centers won’t open in the province on election day. The watchdog institutions said during the voter registration process only 12 centers were open in Balkh.
“Unfortunately, these centers will remain closed and based on the election commission policy, voters registered at these centers, will be denied their right to vote,” said Azimi.
A number of Balkh residents also said they are worried about security at polling centers.
Abdul Azim Azimi, the provincial chief of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) in Balkh said security forces need to maintain security at the centers.
“We want security forces to accelerate efforts and open these centers,” Balkh resident Mohammad Asif said.
“The voters who go to polling stations to vote, they should be assured of security,” Balkh resident Shafi said.
IEC provincial chiefs in the north said 66 polling centers in Sar-e-Pul, 76 centers in Jawzjan and 29 centers in Faryab will remain closed due to security threats.
But security officials in Balkh said they are ready to maintain security of elections in the north and north-eastern parts of the country.
“All Afghan security forces have made complete preparations for maintaining security during the elections. We assure security at (polling stations) in all Balkh districts and in general we have our security plans for the north and north-east of the country,” Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai, commander of 209 Shaheen Military Corps in Balkh said.
Watchdog institutions in Paktia province meanwhile also said a number of polling centers will remain closed in their province.
“During the voter registration process, three of the centers were closed in Gardiz city (the provincial capital). In Zurmat district which has 31 centers, we will have four or five centers open,” Ehsan Hamidi, FEFA head in Paktia said.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has acknowledged that a number of polling centers could possibly be closed on election day. However, they said security forces have promised them that they will maintain security at 5,100 polling centers across the country.
Initially, the IEC said there would be 7,350 polling centers nationwide, but due to security threats this number has dropped by more than 2,000.
IEC spokesman Sayed Hafizullah Hashemi said some polling centers in 74 districts in 20 provinces are facing security threats adding that efforts are underway to send electoral materials to these centers.
“It is expected that the enemy in some areas will try to create problems for the elections, but security forces have assured us that they will not let anyone disrupt this national process,” said Hashemi.
In the meantime, a number of MPs blasted the IEC for not monitoring candidates expenses regarding their electoral campaigns. The IEC rejected this and said a team was now monitoring the amounts spent by candidates and would soon report back to the commission.
The MPs said some candidates had so far spent millions of AFs on their campaigns which is in violation of the Election Law.